A special dinner honoring Archie McLaren friends w/ Krugs, Beaucastel, Saxum, Aubert, Rousseau, Unico, Grange et al

A special dinner was held recently to honor some folks who significantly supported dear friend and now deceased, Archie McLaren, the founder and chairman of the Central Coast Wine Classic which enjoyed a fabulous ride and benefited many charities for 32 years.

Archie had set aside some wines for a separate auction lot dinner and forgot that he had already done so, so when it was discovered he had 2 sets of wines assembled, the idea for this dinner was championed and I was asked to help coordinate it.

The choice for the most perfect venue, the wine cellar dining room at the San Ysidro Ranch, was easy since I had used it before with great success. The cellar like ambience with its inside dining room and adjoining outside courtyard fireplace and garden setting made for a classy, peaceful and comfortable environment and allowed for lots of love, hugs and group conversation to occur amongst the 10 of us.

All of the 8 allocated wines were double decanted, but I backed off on the 2 Chardonnays and quickly refilled the bottles after seeing the Kistler had a strongly suggestive oxidized golden brown color.

We enjoyed a Krug champagne reception in the courtyard before moving in for a marvellous 5 course dinner. Both bottles of Krug were bought by me and another attendee since there was no champagne included in the allocated wines. Preferred Riedel white wine stems were used.

Passed App
American Sturgeon Caviar with Crème Fraiche on Kennebec Waffle Chip

NV KRUG GRANDE CUVEE 159eme Edition- 750 ml; code # 211021 which reveals there were 120 wines from 10 different years, the oldest being 1983 and the youngest 2003; it has 37% reserve wines including 94 and 96 vintages and the final blend was 51% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay and 19% Pinot Meunier; this bottle received its cork in the spring of 2011; it was purchased as part of a 3 pack with the other 2 being the 160eme and 161eme Editions; in the glass, it gave rich, flavorful and mature notes of honeysuckle, apple, pear and caramel delivered with the classic Grande Cuvee mouthfeel which added to the sensory pleasure. We’re off to a good start.

NV KRUG GRANDE CUVEE in magnum- when I purchased this bottle, I noticed it did not have an ID code so I called the wine shop and was informed it had at least 10 years of age when they bought it 3 years ago; seemingly unimportant, this bottle was a gem giving generous and continuous treasures starting with the classical Krug style of offering toasted brioche up front and beyond; white flowers and honeyed white peach and golden delicious apple flavors were most pronounced in this beautifully balanced, full bodied, rich and luscious bubbly; it may have been one of the best Grande Cuvees I can ever recall. Grand start to a great evening; pun intended.

We moved inside to dine at the 5 across 5, large, nicely set up table with all the wines resting on the side board of an antique hutch.

Our 2 dedicated servers professionally graced us with their focused, attentive service throughout the evening to compliment the classy evening we enjoyed. We did our own wine service using the 2 Riedel Burgundy and 2 Bordeaux stems provided.

First Course
House Made Gnocchi with Chanterelle Mushrooms, Speck Ham, Asparagus and Truffle Beurre Blanc
For Vegetarian no ham

Its so unusual to move from champagne into a red wine and then back to white, but that’s what we did on this occasion and in my mind, it worked.

2007 SAXUM JAMES BERRY VINEYARD SOUTHERN RHONE BLEND PASO ROBLES- 41% Grenache, 31% Mourvedre, 28% Syrah; the color was a vibrant dark red purple; this came off really young and boisterous with an abundance of energy expressed first in the nose with lots of fruit forwardness and moving on in the taste profile with generous amounts of ripe and spicy, cedar laced wild cherry and blueberry notes; it had unfolding layers that extended all the way to the back end; sipping was the only way to really appreciate the nuances to the fullest; glad I double decanted this a few times or it might have cracked the Bordeaux stemware when poured.

2001 CHATEAU de BEAUCASTEL CHATEAUNEUF du PAPE- 30% Grenache, 30% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah, 10% Counoise; fabulous wine; maybe one of the best Beaucastel`s I’ve had; this bottle was very giving, nicely balanced, had class and charm with finesses and depth; hints of chocolate mocha infused blackberry, plum and blueberry pervaded throughout; the texture was smooth and tactile soothing; a complete package of pleasure.

Second Course
Pan Roasted Maine Diver Scallops with Charred Romanesco, Braised Oxtail, King Oyster Mushrooms, Pea Shoots, Corn Puree and Black Garlic Vinaigrette
For Vegetarian no Scallops or Oxtail, Will get Baby Zucchini added to the Dish

2007 AUBERT RITCHIE VINEYARD SONOMA COAST CHARDONNAY- 15.6% abv; light yellow color; this bottle was laden with super ripe spicy apple, lemon, lime and honeysuckle notes delivered in a creamy textured medium along with a sensed added intensity influenced by its probably understated alcohol content.

2007 KISTLER HUDSON VINEYARD CARNEROS CHARDONNAY- I had concern when decanting this about it being oxidised after seeing its smoky golden brownish color and getting advanced aromas of butterscotch and caramel, so I backed off and immediately refilled the bottle; it was much less advanced on the palate with more stone fruit notes, especially yellow peach and apricot along with some lemon zest, pear and orange peel with a caramel overlay.

One of the honored guests, Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, brought the following wine:

2001 AU BON CLIMAT NUITS BLANCHES au BOUGE SANTA MARIA VALLEY CHARDONNAY in magnum- this was such a treat; it had remarkable balance and started off with enticing aromas of fresh flowers and citrus followed by toasty green apple coming in with everything continuing on with a nice dollop of minerals joining by mid palate; it had bright acidity, good feel and shined ever so brightly, noticeably a step or two up from the two 6 years younger wines before it.

Third Course
Lavender Scented Duck Breast with Roasted Butternut Squash, Tokyo Turnips, Heirloom Carrots, Wild Rice and Golden Raisin Mostarda

Veg option
Roasted Butternut Squash with Wild Rice, Baby Kale, Tokyo Turnips, Heirloom Carrots and Meyer Lemon Nage

2005 SEA SMOKE SOUTHING STA. RITA HILLS PINOT NOIR- obvious heat greets me in the first nose and I back off and come back with timidity to find super ripe wild cherry/ berry and childhood memories of jujube enjoyed at the movie theatre; on the palate, its very fruit forward with a dominance of mint chocolate laden blueberry and black raspberry; there was an uneasiness about this bottle and i deferred to moving on. Later on, I came back and found no change.

2007 DOMAINE ARMAND ROUSSEAU CHAMBERTIN-CLOS de BEZE GRAND CRU- I got some earthy, Bretty notes initially in the nose followed by spicy red raspberry in this medium bodied wine; it seemed on the edge of being good and having more attributes than issues, but there was always a hint of something just not quite right; it took some time in the glass for more treasures to come forth, but it stayed on that edge and the Brett factor continued to plague.


Fourth Course
Coffee Dusted Loin of Venison with Baby Yams, Artichoke Hearts, Braised Red Cabbage, Petite Watercress and Blackberry Reduction

Veg Option
Roasted Vegetable Caponata with Golden Raisins, Eggplant, Heirloom Tomato, Crispy Polenta and Feta Cheese

2002 VEGA SICILIA UNICO RIBERA del DUERO- we got a fabulous bottle here and I cherished it taking small sips and just allowing this blessed liquid to ease in and down; the color was a dark, but not inky Grange like purple; the nose had inviting aromas of dried cranberry. cherry/ berry with undertones of clove and licorice; additionally, some black currant shows up and its all smiles to the back end with some grace and charm amidst all of the treasures; the welcomed, sustained finish is so fitting for this glorious Unico which is such a great place now and has the structure to promise more of the same way down the line.

2008 PENFOLDS GRANGE SHIRAZ SOUTH AUSTRALIA- 98% Shiraz, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon; inky, teeth staining, dental cleaning needed dark purple color; intense nose suggestive of concentration and power along with spicy, talc and tar laden blue and black fruit followed by more of the same on the palate along with plum, blackberry and black currant and a streak of licorice; it was massively full bodied, had layers of depth and complexity and seemed to overwhelm my palate unless I approached very gingerly; I’ve had a few Grange over the years and do not remember any being this big and powerful without at least some finesse. This was a pumped up big boy with lots of sleeve busting muscle flexing.


Fifth Course
Brebisrousse D’ Argental, Montgomery’s Cheddar, Shropshire Blue
Fig Jam, Marcona Almonds, Honey Comb

The purpose of this dinner was to celebrate and express gratitude to a chosen few who supported Archie over many years/ decades. I believe those people got this seriously intended message.

Fond memories of many Wine Classics were shared throughout the evening. All of us have established lifetime friendships with many of the attendees which included winery owners, winemakers, wine writers, chefs, restaurant owners, sommeliers and wine enthusiasts for which we are deeply grateful.

Archie would have been proud and his presence was felt.


Wow, Blake. Pretty impressive lineup of wines. Some very familiar faces ther,
both at table and on the sideboard.

Hey Tom,

Yes, you would know many, if not all of the participants in both instances. It was a fun night.

On the side, our teams got shelled pretty early on, but we do have Texqs Tech to root for, at least for conference pride.

Yup, Blake…the Hawks & the Cats went down in flames way too early-on. So TexasTech is our last great hope.
Was it Virginia or Virginia Tech that HowieShannon went on to coach?

Loved Howie, my high school coach assisted by Jack Dean. Virginia Tech.

Shame about the 07 Beze. The Chambertin is gorgeous and drinking nicely now (with much room for improvement).

Nice read Blake - thanks for sharing! What a great way in which a wine friend can be celebrated - his presence there through the wines had to have been clearly palpable. CHEERS

What a beautiful write up. The venue, ambience, food, and wine illustrate this special celebration. Thanks for sharing.

The #1 disappointment on a night that was full of wondrous moments.

I appreciate your comments and respect your wine savviness Jonathan.

Some photos from dinner guests are coming in after the post, so I`m adding a few plus the first one depicting the difference in the first 2 Chardonnays:

This photo shows Toby Rowland-Jones {center} wearing an entire wardrobe given to him by Archie. Toby is a consummate sommelier who assisted Archie in arranging and organizing teams of somms in serving wines over the 3 decades of the Wine Classic: